Voices of HMSOM: Intrator Aims to Understand the Brain
February 13, 2023
Amid the spread of a new and unforeseen virus known as SARS-CoV-2, Jordan Intrator found his medical education inspired to new heights.
The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine student was out in the community through the Human Dimension curriculum, working with a man with a heart condition who was on a transplant waiting list. This patient had not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine, and had signed up only to languish on a long waiting list. But Intrator and his student partner, working in tandem with calls and research, found the patient the access, and the shot, he so desperately needed. And with the virus raging around the community, the patient avoided the worst outcomes experienced by millions during the pandemic.
For Intrator, now expecting to graduate with his medical degree and head into residency in July, it’s an early, simple “win” in his burgeoning career.
“This man was the sickest of the sick, the most in danger if he got the disease, a person who lives in a community which is being disparately hit by the virus - and yet he didn’t have access to the vaccine,” said Intrator. “We reached out for him, and it worked. That’s something we’re all striving for - to advocate for patients, and to create equity. He was very impactful for me. It’s something that will always stick with me.”
“Jordan Intrator is an excellent student and shows great promise as a physician; he’s shown ways to make a difference on the campus, in the clinical setting, everywhere,” said Jeffrey Boscamp, M.D., dean of the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. “We look forward to what he will do, from day one of his career.”
PEOPLE AND SCIENCE
Neuropsychiatry is a sometimes-overlooked niche, and it’s all in the name: it combines psychiatry’s examination of mental health disorders with neurology’s search for root causes of brain disorders.
This is where Intrator sees huge potential.
Intrator honed his interest in people, and science - and the science of people - starting with a psychology class in high school in Long Island - which proceeded to a psychology degree from Hunter College at the City University of New York.
“I like people, and I like science,” he said. “It became fun to me to combine the two - asking questions, applying scientific principles to novel situations. To come up with ideas and apply them in real-life and explain how the world works.”
The undergraduate got first experience in a clinical setting at the famed Bellevue Hospital in New York City. He recalls a number of patient interactions - particularly doing an intake assessment one afternoon on a gentleman with a violent history. The man was pleasantly engaging in that first encounter, but just hours later placed one of the nurse technicians in a chokehold and had to be subdued. Intrator looks at that experience and all the others as formative, in his observation of the science of treating the mind.
“I realized how fortunate I was, being able to just work with patients and see them recover, and seeing them come in acute psychiatric distress, and then get better through both therapy and medication. It was very moving,” he recalled. “Along the way, I started asking myself: What is causing this? What is happening in this person’s life? What is bringing this on? How did they get better? How can we keep them better? And how can I be a part of that?”
Intrator attributes his success to no innate natural ability - but a willingness to learn, try new things, and reach out despite the odds. With that outlook, he pursued medical school and found himself accepted to several institutions. Ultimately he came to the HMSOM partly because he received a full scholarship - and also because it offered a humanistic-driven, progressive vision of how to become a doctor in the 21st century. He saw it as an inspiration to be the best he could be.
“They (HMSOM) saw something in me,” he recalled. “I told myself, I’m going to prove to them that it was the right decision.”
Intrator seized the initiative, spurring himself toward participation in a number of groups: the School's Medical Education Committee, a student representative to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Peer Mentoring Group, and the presidencies of the Psychiatry Student Interest Group, the Student Interest Group in Neurology, and the Neuroscience Journal Club (the latter of which he founded).
He also took part in research projects that spanned across the Hackensack Meridian Health network. Notably this included assisting investigations into the use of psychotropic drugs, stimulants and depressants, in combination with transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, and electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT.
During the summer before his fourth year, Intrator was introduced to a neuropsychiatrist, who he elected to do rotations with as part of an independent study period. He responded strongly - it became like a calling.
“This is exactly the type of practice I was looking for my entire career,” recalled Intrator.
Neuropsychiatry became the focal point of his interest. Through the course of his years working in rotations and observing mental health and the barriers to it, he remains convinced that the future is combining psychiatry with neurology to understand the physiological workings of the brain.
THE CAREER AHEAD
“Empowering patients” is a need he sees in psychiatry, where it can be too easy to become over-reliant on medication. The goal, as he sees it, is to help patients use pharmacotherapy in combination with self-care to better balance the brain so patients can better tackle their own mental-health issues.
“For me it’s about defining neuropsychiatry, breaking down how the brain affects behavior, giving people their autonomy back,” he said.
Ultimately, he will want to heal patients to the best of his ability - but he also wants to continue conducting research which may further his impact beyond even what he can do in one office or hospital.
“Research is a way to channel clinical inquiry into impacting care, and having a farther reach than the finite number of patients you can actually see on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
Intrator’s daily routine includes exercise, avidly following New York sports, and daily morning meditation. He grew up in Long Island, one of four children of an education consultant and a chief financial officer, and he remains close to them - and grateful for his upbringing.
“I have a supportive family I can drive home to. They’re my biggest cheerleaders - and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them,” he said. “Considering how much we learn about the social determinants of health here at the School, I realize how much of a privilege I’ve had, with the support system I grew up with.”